Will Forests Adapt to a Warmer World?

How is climate change affecting the world’s forests today and in the future

Copyright 2006 Renate Leahy
By Stephen Leahy

TORONTO, Nov 20 (IPS/IFEJ) – Deforestation remains the greatest current threat to the world’s forests, claiming 10 to 15 million hectares of tree-covered areas every year, but climate change may represent a bigger challenge in the long term, scientists say.

“We’re like a two-year-old playing with fire… We’re messing around with something dangerous and don’t really understand what will happen,” says William Laurance, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama, in reference to climate change and the Amazon rainforest.

Forests and other forms of life are now living on an “alien” planet where the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for a million years.

These unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases are creating a new, hotter planet with weather that is much more extreme than in the past.

What does this mean for the 20 percent of the Earth’s original forests that are still standing? Some scientists believe forests will grow faster in a warmer world. Others say they are more likely to burn, or suffer from disease or die from drought.

Full story here

Part of a series on sustainable development for IPS and IFEJ (International Federation of Environmental Journalists)